Youth Interview: Speaking Up

World Vision Youth are amazing individuals who are constantly pushing themselves further in efforts to becoming more passionate activists for social change. Check out this interview with Jennifer, one of our amazing youth, who is on the road to becoming an amazing speaker!

Why are you passionate about child labour/child trafficking/ child rights?

I am really passionate about bringing awareness to the people in society who are oppressed and vulnerable. I really see children living in poverty and slavery as some of the most vulnerable in society, especially girls. The reality that these kids face every day is unimaginable. Despite their circumstances, I believe that they carry unbelievable potential. I think that given the right tools and the right opportunities, they can rise up and shape the world for the better.

Why NO CHILD FOR SALE?

The “No Child For Sale” campaign has been incredible in helping to equip and motivate me to raise awareness about this issue of child slavery. The videos, graphics, and information that are available online have been incredible resources for me while I’ve been preparing to speak. The work that World Vision has put behind the campaign is amazing, and I felt like the tools that are available would really help to enhance my presentations.

What motivated or inspired the idea to speak at local churches?

Honestly, I didn’t have any plans to start speaking in churches! Initially, it started as a one-time deal at my home church. My pastor expressed interest in holding a ‘No Child for Sale Sunday’, and knew I was passionate about social justice, so he asked if I would be interested in speaking. In preparing to speak, I did a lot of research, and I actually became very passionate about the issue. After that presentation, I was asked to speak to youth leaders at an upcoming youth camp, and then another pastor asked me to speak at his church on a Sunday morning. The opportunities that have opened up have been incredible, and the local churches have helped me to get my message out to so many people.

What have your speaking experiences been like?

My speaking experiences have been amazing! It has been such a gift to be able to share my passions with people from across the province. The presentations have been well received by the audiences, and it has helped to spark some interesting conversations with people who may have never even heard of child slavery before.

How do you prepare? Or is it a heart speech?

I definitely make sure that I am prepared before speaking. I practice several times before speaking, and I usually have an outline of a script with me when I speak. By being as comfortable with the topic as possible, it helps me to be more confident when I speak. I also love using Prezi in my presentations. I find it adds a visual element to the presentation, and helps to keep the audience engaged. However, I try not to limit myself to the script. I try to let my heart and passion for the issues show, and I find that those are the moments that I am able to really connect with the audience.

Do you ever get nervous to stand and speak? How do you move past the fears if any?

I definitely get nervous from time to time. I am a true introvert at heart, so public speaking is something that has never come easily for me. Here are the three best ways that I try to move beyond the nerves, so I can be as comfortable as possible when I speak:
1. Be Prepared. I try to know my topic as well as I can, and I go in knowing exactly what I want to communicate to the audience. If I’m prepared and familiar with my topic, the speech comes across as more coherent and confident.
2. Get Excited. Whenever I am given the opportunity to speak to a group of people, I always see it as a huge blessing. That is my opportunity to show others my passion, and to try to get them passionate as well! I find that just by thinking about how exciting the opportunity is, the nerves go away.
3. Pray. I pray both while I am preparing to speak, and right before I speak. I pray for confidence, and I pray that my message will be well received by the audience. This keeps me focused and grounded, and it helps me to push beyond any fears or doubts I may have.

What has been your best moment so far in all this?

I have had several amazing moments after my presentations while I am talking to people from the audience. I love hearing their feedback, and listening to how inspired, or excited they are to start making a difference. I also get so inspired by people who tell me about things that they are already doing in their daily lives (child sponsorships, buying fair trade, etc.) to make a difference. These are definitely the best moments for me.

What has surprised you the most so far?

It has surprised me how unaware most people are about child slavery. At the same time, it surprises me how receptive people are to the presentation, and how eager most people are to find ways to make a difference.

What encouragement do you have for youth and students who want to follow your example?

I encourage any students who feels passionately about any social justice issue, to start finding opportunities to share that passion. Start by sharing in school, at church, or during community events, and you may be surprised what other opportunities open up after that!

It is also important not to back away from opportunities when they present themselves, no matter how insignificant they may seem. There have been several times that I almost declined speaking engagements, and little did I know how many other doors would open because of that one presentation. Each door that opens will bring new connections and new lessons. You never know where your willingness to seize an opportunity will take you.

What is next for Jennifer Brenton on this journey of justice?

I hope to be able to continue to speak and to keep bringing awareness to child slavery and other social justice issues. I’m currently planning to do some more speaking in the New Year, including speaking at the Imagine Next Gen Leadership Conference here in Newfoundland in April.

I’d also like do some work with World Vision’s Girl Rising campaign. Education for girls is another issue that I am super passionate about, and now that I have some speaking experience, I’d like to be able share this issue with others as well.

A Question to Remember

We are living in an age when it goes against the ‘norm’ to think more about others more than ourselves. How do we change that? How to we challenge the norm? How do we live our lives in such a way that we effect positive change in the world?

I believe it starts with deciding to live a life of generosity.

For some it happens naturally, for others it’s a conscious decision – either way, the most gratifying way to live life is to do it with others’ well being at the center of our thoughts and actions.

A few weeks ago I was in class and got a text from an old friend of mine, and all it said was “How can we change the world today, Jules?” – with no explanation, no prompting or prior conversation. That text changed my day. Not only did it inspire me but also it shifted my perspective from normal day-to-day tasks to actually thinking, what am I doing to change the world today? How can I make a difference in the lives of others?

Sometimes, shifting gears is as simple as that – as simple as making every day about what can I do to help someone else? I don’t know about you, but I’m not okay just sitting back and letting the injustices of this world continue. Global poverty can end in our lifetime. All children could have access to primary education in our time. The number of child deaths from preventable diseases could be just a fraction of what it is now, in our lifetime.

How do these big changes happen? By shifting our perspective and starting with ourselves. When perspectives shift, lives shift in a positive direction. I heard it said once “Sometimes ending world poverty feels like emptying the ocean with an eye dripper, and just when you get close to seeing water levels go down it rains.” This can be true, but that’s why there is so much power in students from across Canada stepping up together to make a change. YOU are a part of a movement: your movement involves some 75,000 youth and students across the country.

Living a lifestyle of generosity is all consuming. It’s a powerful thing when life’s mundane every day tasks shift with that perspective. “How can we change the world today?” can be a question you ask yourself in the morning when you get up, on the bus on your way to class, or even at work. When our thoughts shift away from ourselves our lives begin changing for the better.

So, where do we start? Why not shop ethically, host an information session on global poverty, mobilize your friends by creating your own campaign, and use what you love to make a difference in the world. The options are really endless, it just takes making a decision to be different, go against the ‘norm’, and live out a lifestyle of generosity.

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 EAST & WEST REGION CHALLENGES

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Remember to tag us @wvyouthcanada along with #WVYChallenge and #WVYParty through Instagram & Twitter!

  1. Read a book on the topic of giving & generosity
  2. Have a neighbor over for a meal
  3. Mail a card expressing gratitude to someone
  4. Purchase 1 Item from World Vision’s Gift Catalogue
  5. Leave a surprise gift on a friend’s doorstep
  6. Build a snowman with family or friends
  7. Educate a small group of friends on a current social justice issue
  8. Visit a senior resident in your community
  9. Write a journal entry reflecting on your life learnings this past year
  10. Bless a family by babysitting their kids over the Christmas holidays
  11. Buy a coffee for the person behind in you line
  12. Dream up a Justice Project idea plan & share it with us

Feel free to take a look at the graphics we have for this event! You can download and post on your own social media account too 🙂

CENTRAL REGION CHALLENGES

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Remember to tag us @wvyouthcanada along with #WVYChallenge and #WVYParty through Instagram & Twitter!

  • Make a Youtube Video about a social justice cause
  • Take a social justice selfie
  • Write a letter to your MP
  • Go through your closet and get rid of 10% of your clothes- donate to Goodwill
  • Give a gift to your teacher
  • Take out your neighbours garbage
  • Sing a Christmas carol on a street corner – 1 song will do!
  • Volunteer at a local food bank
  • While you are at Starbucks/Timmy’s/Second Cup buy someone in the line a coffee
  • Purchase an item from the World Vision’s gift catalogue
  • Leave a surprise gift on a friend’s doorstep

Feel free to take a look at the graphics below for this event! You can download and post on your own social media accounts too :)

INFO

What is it?
A World Vision Youth Canada Nationwide Christmas Party

When is it?
Dec 20th, 2014 @ 2pm – 11pm (WEST REGION) and 3pm – 7pm (CENTRAL REGION)
But you can host your party any time you want! Just connect with friends and other activists in your area.

What do I have to bring?

  • Bring yourself!
  • Bring food to share!
  • “Bring your thing” – Share your gifts with your friends too! (Whether it’s baked treats, guitars, board games, dance moves, snapping photos, just bring fun)
  • Wear a Christmas hat and “Top That” party off right!
  • Bring a few bucks to donate to a Gift Catalogue Item of your group’s choice

What do I have to do?
Show up! Have fun and share the Christmas cheer! Make sure you take lots of photos and Instagram them and share them over Twitter with the hashtag #WVYParty

By attending the Christmas Party launch, people are committing to their region’s Christmas Justice Challenge (at least to try it ☺)

All challenges must be completed by January 30th, 2015

Make sure you post a picture with #WVYParty, #WVYChallenge, and tag us @wvyouthcanada to prove you’ve completed each challenge to qualify for our top prizes and awards. We will select and announce the top 3 participants with the best “proof photos” afterwards!

Fight for Human Rights

We are inherently different. All of us. We have different religious beliefs, political views, and social behaviours. Some of us start the day off with a coffee, others with an elaborate breakfast, and others with nothing at all. We go to school for a living, stay home from school to earn an extra living, or start work at an early age. We are all different. The one undeniable thing that unites us all, though, is our humanity. We are human and each deserving of dignity and rights.

December 10th marks Human Rights Day, and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the rights that we all possess and often take for granted. This year marks the sixty-seventh anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Complete with thirty articles, the UDHR affirms that “the recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.” (UDHR). This is to say that we are each deserving of the rights encapsulated in the UDHR for the simple fact that we are human. There are no qualification standards. There are no prerequisites. We have documents, bills, declarations, and conventions that all aim to protect and advance such rights, yet millions of people worldwide still suffer from the exploitation of these rights.

I’ve always been fascinated by the world of human rights and the international mechanisms in place to ensure that they are respected. On the same note, I’ve always been amazed at the fact that these rights, although they apply to everyone, are frequently disregarded or ignored.

A few years ago, I was in Ukraine visiting orphanages and drug rehab centers with a group from Montreal. Nothing I did prior to that trip could prepare me for what I would see and experience. Every time I would leave an orphanage, I would burst into tears at the thought of an unknown future for the children I had just spent hours playing with. I met teenagers confined to wheelchairs for the rest of their lives because they did not receive the proper medical attention they needed at birth. The most minor surgeries could have left some children and teens thriving, but because they lack the means, they remain in the condition that they are in.

I met a girl named Natasha in one of the orphanages I visited. She was a seventeen-year-old beauty. She showed me her room and offered me literally every single belonging that she owned – a plastic bangle bracelet, a ring, a photograph, and a painting she had made, to name a few. Needless to say, her selflessness is something that needs to be emulated in all of us. We spent the entire day together and her attitude, despite the circumstances that put her current situation, was such an encouragement to me. As I was leaving the orphanage, our team leader told me that Natasha was being scouted by a modelling agency and would likely be offered a job as a model once she would leave the orphanage. I was then given insight into the world of human trafficking, where many girls, like Natasha, are offered job opportunities by traffickers posing as modelling agencies. Knowing little to nothing on the subject and faced with having to earn an income for herself, Natasha would likely be one of the millions of girls who are trapped or coerced into a cycle of sexual exploitation.

Throughout my trip, I kept telling myself that this isn’t fair. Why is it that some of us live our days without even thinking twice about our rights, while others are deprived of them on a daily basis? There’s no answer, except that we live in a harsh world. But, we have the resources at hand to change this. We are a movement aimed at educating children, nurturing communities, feeding families, and working with victims of exploitation to ensure that the rights endowed to us as humans are respected and that our basic needs are met. We have the power to make a tangible difference in the lives of people we might not ever meet. Let’s act on it.

First stop: check out our Gift Catalogue to see how you can educate a child or help a girl heal from sexual exploitation.

The Joy of Giving

We as humans are at our best when we commit our lives to a lifestyle of giving and generosity. No one makes it on their own in this life, but it is through mutual giving and receiving that we are able to flourish. I think that much of the injustices of our world can be eliminated if people centered their lives on giving rather than taking.

As a young child, I was taught by my family and community that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Knowing this, I found my self-centered nature being consistently skeptical of giving, and often caught up in the thought that if I consume more, I will find more happiness. However, as I reflect on my life, the happiest and most meaningful moments in my life have been those instances when I gave without the motive of receiving anything back, and when I humbly received from others with a grateful heart. In the book The Paradox of Generosity, Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson have uncovered the following: “Generosity is paradoxical. Those who give, receive back in turn. By spending ourselves for others’ well-being, we enhance our own standing. In letting go of some of what we own, we ourselves move toward flourishing. This is not only a philosophical or religious teaching; it is a sociological fact. . . . [In] failing to care for others, we do not properly take care of ourselves.”

For most of us, we are tempted to think that, in order to give, our gifts have to be flashy, elaborate, and expensive. But, what is more important than what you give, is why you give. Mother Theresa, a champion of selfless giving, said the following, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” We have all been given time, a certain amount of resources, talents that we can use to give to others.

One of the most valuable gifts you can give to others is time, where you give that person your undivided attention. This is a gift that is all too often neglected in our busy world, but that so many people long to receive and experience. The simple acts of being with, gently listening, speaking words of affirmation and encouragement, and offering a hug have the power to change and heal a person’s life.

In terms of resources that we have, whether it may be money or stuff, I have found that the best way to enjoy them was to actually share it with others and have people partake in what you have. That’s why my campus community group has decided in response to all that we have been blessed with; share some of our resources with a family in a developing community through the World Vision Gift Catalogue.

All of us have talents, and I think the best way to make a good difference in the world is to pursue excellence in our talents with the ultimate aim to seek the well-being of humanity. Since I like to converse, think of ideas, and mobilize people for action, I am seeking to study the best I can in pursuing my Masters of International Development, and work passionately as a Youth & Student Provincial Leader with World Vision Youth Canada.

How would our world look like if we were more obsessed with giving than getting? Christmas is just around the corner, and I believe this is a great time to not just give material gifts, but other types of gifts as well. Consider the following gift ideas suggested by Oren Arnold: “To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a customer, service. To a friend, loyalty. To your parents, gratitude and devotion. To your mate, love and faithfulness.To every child, a good example. To all, charity.”

One of the main pillars of any justice movements is the devotion to giving. When a group of people wholly give themselves over to speak for the voiceless, serve the destitute, and stand up against injustice the world, change is inevitable. It is my hope that World Vision Youth Canada will be movement filled with people committed to a lifestyle of giving. Giving begets giving, therefore, let the passion for giving begin within us first and spread like wildfire within the communities that we are part of.

Check out the World Vision Gift Catalogue, Click Below.

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